Shares of Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX) are going vertical today, after the company struck a deal with Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutica to develop and commercialize Vertex's promising VX-950 drug outside North America.

Vertex stands to receive $165 million now, along with additional payments as the drug works its way through the various regulatory hurdles and milestones on the way to market. If successful, Vertex will also receive royalties from Janssen on related product sales in Europe, South America, Africa, Australia, and the Middle East.

The finish line for this hepatitis C treatment is still a couple of years away. VX-950 is still in phase 2 clinical trials at the moment, but if all goes well, it should enter the third and final phase of clinical trials by the end of next year.

With more than 170 million people worldwide coping with the pesky liver disease, Vertex isn't alone in toiling away for a more efficient hepatitis C treatment. Others like Schering-Plough (NYSE:SGP) are also pursuing their own potential solutions.

Vertex is alluring because it's a much smaller company. It's got more to gain if VX-950 is a hit, compared to one of the many blockbuster drugs at a diversified Big Pharma giant.

The stock has already had a pretty amazing run. Charly Travers, our resident biotech guru, recommended the shares to Rule Breakers subscribers last year, when the stock was trading at just $10.48 a pop. Favorable developments along the way have found the shares more than tripling since Charly's initial nod.

Charly's attraction to the company at the time was partly due to its success in landing lucrative partnerships with industry heavies like Merck (NYSE:MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK). Now it's shaking hands with Johnson & Johnson, too.

That's good company for a good company.

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Merck, Glaxo, and Johnson & Johnson are all Motley Fool Income Investor picks.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is proud to work alongside Charly as part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. T he Fool has a disclosure policy.